An essential part of observing National PTSD Awareness Month this June is acknowledging that there are effective treatments for post-traumatic stress disorder. One of these is eye movement desensitization and reprocessing therapy, also known as EMDR. If you are struggling to resolve trauma from your past, EMDR can help you learn to talk about those experiences and work through complex emotions in a healthy way.
What Is PTSD?
Though media attention on post-traumatic stress has largely focused on male combat veterans, trauma is more common among women than you might have realized. According to the National Center for PTSD, about 50% of women in the U.S. will experience a traumatic event in their lives.
Often for women, long-term trauma comes in the form of sexual assault, but many other experiences can also result in PTSD, including childhood abuse or neglect, domestic violence, natural disasters and the unexpected death of a close friend or family member.
Symptoms of PTSD may include:
- Nightmares or sudden, intrusive memories of the trauma
- Avoidance of people, places and circumstances that cause bad memories to resurface
- Irritability, anxiety, depression or trouble sleeping
- Feeling on edge and scaring easily
EMDR for Trauma
Living with PTSD can cause chronic stress, and can be incredibly disruptive in your daily life. If you choose not to seek treatment for the trauma you have lived through, you could be putting yourself at a higher risk of other problems, such as:
- Trouble relating to others
- Feeling withdrawn and isolated from the rest of the world
- Chronic pain
- Eating disorders
- Suicidal thoughts or behaviors
- Substance abuse
- Health issues such as cardiovascular disease
The practice of EMDR originated with Dr. Francine Shapiro in 1987. The concept behind this therapeutic approach is that specific eye movements can reduce the negative emotions underlying traumatic memories. During an EMDR session, your therapist will ask you to recall traumatic or triggering experiences while they direct your eye movements. Sounds and other stimuli can also be part of EMDR treatment.
Remembering distressing events can be less upsetting when there is something else going on to distract you. Over several treatment sessions, EMDR can lessen the strong psychological response you have when thoughts or memories of your trauma arise.
What to Know Before You Try EMDR Therapy
EMDR therapy has proven to be safe, and has fewer side effects than prescription anti-anxiety medications. However, you should be aware that for many people, going through EMDR brings about a heightened awareness of thinking, resulting in vivid, realistic dreams.
The first few therapy sessions may be more challenging as your therapist asks you to focus on facing your trauma head-on. You may find yourself dealing with difficult emotions such as fear, guilt, anger or sadness during treatment. However, successfully completing a course of EMDR therapy can help you work through your traumatic experience and emerge stronger on the other side.
Where to Find EMDR Treatment for Trauma
At Canyon Crossing, our trauma-focused treatment for women includes EMDR as part of our comprehensive approach to treating the mental health challenges our clients face. If you are struggling with unaddressed trauma and a co-occurring substance use disorder, contact us today.